Monday, May 15, 2017

Cockaigne on the Ohio?

The comedic possibilities are staggering. What does utopia look like for a Disneyite, a historical preservationist or a doggie splash park devotee?


For thousands of years human beings have dreamt of perfect worlds, worlds free of conflict, hunger and unhappiness. But can these worlds ever exist in reality?

In 1516 Sir Thomas More wrote the first 'Utopia'. He coined the word 'utopia' from the Greek ou-topos meaning 'no place' or 'nowhere'. But this was a pun - the almost identical Greek word eu-topos means a good place. So at the very heart of the word is a vital question: can a perfect world ever be realised?

For medieval peasants, utopia was a negation. It's a vision worth remembering given the advent of so many minimum wage jobs at Summit Springs, at least before the hotels about to be built there slide into the valley below -- and Dan Coffey declaims responsibility.

Exploring the Strange Pleasures of Cockaigne, a Medieval Peasant’s Dream World, by Eric Grunhauser (Atlas Obscura)

The birds fly right into your mouth, and there isn’t animal poop everywhere!

The dream of the common person’s utopia was more than a little bit different during medieval times. Whereas today we have visions of lands o’ plenty like a huge mountain made of rock candy, the common peasant living in the muck and the mire of medieval Europe had a whimsical, satirical dream land known as Cockaigne.

While there have been many different versions of Cockaigne appearing in literature throughout the ages, in general, the Land of Cockaigne was a medieval dream world where the regular order things was flipped on its head. In Cockaigne, the poor would be rich, food and sex were freely available, and sloth was treasured and respected above all else. It was often portrayed as the perfect daydream of the common peasant, a place where the drudgery and struggle of medieval life was nowhere to be seen. However, even though it was depicted as a serf’s perfect world, it’s unclear how aware of the concept of Cockaigne the average person would have been.

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